Can Hippos Drown – Or Can Hippos Float? ???? (Answered)

hippo under the water surrounded by fishes 9BJ6KUS scaled e1632078729901

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Hippos are semi-aquatic and have many features that prevent them from drowning. Due to their size they can’t float at all – so they are experts at living underwater.

hippo under the water surrounded by fishes 9BJ6KUS

Do Hippos Ever Drown In Rivers?

Hippos have many adaptations to make their lives in the water easier and safer. For example, they have webbed feet; special thick, waxy skin; and self-sealing nostrils.

Hippos can also hold their breath for around 4-5 minutes at a time without struggling. Calves (baby hippos) have to breath more often as they have smaller lungs – and often sit on mom’s back in deeper water instead of swimming.

It would therefore take a serious accident, major health issue, or terrible animal attack for a hippo to get in trouble in the water and drown. It does happen of course – as in the rainy season there is a lot happening in pools and rivers.

Fights, disease, and predators all add to the risks – but as hippos have hardly any natural predators and can live well over 40 years in the wild – these things are few and far between for the adults.

Young hippos though are a different story. They are sometimes attacked by crocodiles in the water when left unattended, as well as by other predators just outside of the water when the calves are old enough to wander on land alone.

Young hippos are sometimes the victims of terrible attacks by adult male hippos. These are often due to a mating battle or are during the dry season when water levels are low or non-existent and tempers run high.

hippo in the water PNA7PLM scaled e1632078672186

Can Hippos Float In Water?

Due to hippos’ immense size and weight – between 9-117ft (3-5m) long and around 2000-3300lbs (1300-1500kg) – they don’t float.

They really never could – unless they had evolved a layer of buoyant blubber like whales – their not-so-distant relatives. While whales and porpoises went for the fully aquatic lifestyle option (needing flippers and layers of warmth for the coldest of oceans) – hippos stayed in the warm climate and chose to wallow instead. And keep their feet.

They can, however, travel underwater very elegantly. They can’t technically ‘swim’ at the surface in the traditional sense, but they travel through water using their limbs in a slightly different way. They retain a certain amount of buoyancy from their large lungs when underwater, so can easily glide around under the water – almost like beautiful running.

They hop and leap under the water in sort of an anti-gravity world and can cover great distances with each single bound – or charge through the water faster than an Olympic swimmer.

Can Hippos Breathe Underwater?

Although hippos can stay underwater for hours – and even sleep underwater – they can’t breathe underwater. Just like their cousins, the whales and dolphins, they have to return to the surface to breathe fresh air – every 4 minutes or so (although some whales can go an hour between breaths!).

They are all mammals and so have lungs for their breathing apparatus – something that cannot process water. Without gills, there is no way that hippos can breathe underwater, and breathe in any amount of water could cause them to drown. They have self-sealing nostrils and high-capacity lungs to avoid that – and to help them enjoy their semi-aquatic lifestyle in safety. They even have thick waterproof skin so they don’t go wrinkly either.

How Does a Hippo’s Ability to Float or Drown Affect its Speed in Water?

A hippo’s ability to float or drown impacts its hippo swimming speed. By nature, hippos are buoyant due to their dense bones and fatty tissues. This allows them to move effortlessly through water, enhancing their speed and agility. However, if a hippo loses buoyancy, it may struggle to maintain its usual speed and could potentially drown.

Do Hippos Sleep Underwater?

So effective are hippos at living in the water – that they can even sleep totally submerged. The water is their safe place and so they need to balance their resting periods with living in a river. They do it with a small piece of natural magic.

Breathing is so innate in them – the act of surfacing – that they will do it in their sleep without waking up. Hippos will rise and fall in the water throughout their naps without being disturbed, breathing once every 5 minutes or so before sinking back down to the bottom. Everything is set up for the least effort in their watery homes – and they rarely have any issues with this lifestyle choice.

Young hippos may find this a bit more tricky and are often seen sleeping on mom’s back to make breathing easier. However, calves are used to being underwater from a young age as not only are they actually born underwater – most hippos babies have to nurse underwater too.

Moms don’t usually suckle outside the safety of their river – but will do in certain circumstances. Pygmy Hippos are more likely to feed on the riverbank – laying on their side to do so.

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